Healthy Holiday Swaps

Lighten up your holidays with healthy treats and fun physical activity!

You don’t have to give up treats entirely or feel guilty about an occasional over-indulgence this season. The key to keeping holidays both healthy and fun is to strike a balance.  Below are a few swaps that will keep your holidays healthy without fear of morphing into the “Nutrition Grinch.” 

One of my holiday favorites is an eggnog latte. The problem is that even so-called “lite”eggnog eggnog is still loaded with calories and sugar. The key is to enjoy this seasonal treat in smaller amounts.

Adults can order the smallest size latte and ask that it be cut with fat-free milk. Better yet, buy a carton of “lite” eggnog and add a dash to your morning coffee. Eggnog is only available for a short time so enjoy it while you can.

For kids who enjoy eggnog, consider using it more as a flavoring with fat-free milk. Mix  2-4 ounces of  “lite” eggnog with 4 ounces of fat-free milk for a holiday treat. Your child will still be getting calcium, vitamin D, protein, potassium and all the other important nutrients found in milk.

Gingerbread Houses
Kids love to create gingerbread houses. Add a healthy twist by having your kids* construct mini-houses made of whole grain graham crackers, peanut, cashew or almond butter (instead of frosting) and dried fruit pieces, walnuts, almonds, pecans and other nuts. For color, add just a few candy pieces.
*Note: nuts and dried fruit can pose a choking hazard for children under the age of four. 

Holiday Tortilla Chips
Put those holiday cookie cutters to a healthier use by making your own tortilla chips. Start with whole grain corn tortillas and cut out reindeer, menorahs, stars, Santas, or other holiday shapes. Spray both sides lightly with canola oil spray and bake 5-7 minutes in a 400º oven. Serve with refried beans, guacamole or hummus.

For a quick and easy guacamole, add 1 tsp. fresh lime juice, 2 T. prepared salsa and 2 T. black beans to one peeled and seeded avocado. Ask your child to help measure the ingredients and mash it up with a fork or potato masher. 

Reindeer Face Sandwich
Make everyday food fun by adding a holiday theme.  Spread bread triangles with tuna, egg or chicken salad. Ask your child to create a reindeer by decorating each triangle with two olives for eyes, a grape tomato for the nose, and two pretzel twists for the antlers.

For many families, the holiday season evokes the smells and taste of delicious cookies and other baked goods. Baking cookies from scratch allows you to substitute more nutrient-rich ingredients such as whole wheat pastry flour, ground flax, oatmeal, pumpkin, dried fruit, nuts, dark chocolate and healthier fats such as canola or grapeseed oil.

Simplify Holiday Favorites
Often, less is more (and healthier too) when it comes to holiday dishes. Instead of green bean casserole, serve steamed frozen or fresh green beans topped with toasted almonds. Make your own cranberry sauce with citrus zest and less added sugar. Consider roasting fresh sweet potatoes instead of the marshmallow/syrup version. Make a simple brown and wild rice pilaf and offer whole grain rolls with your meal. 

Keep on Moving!
Time off from work and school is not a permit for parking on the couch. Build fun, active play  into every day. When watching sports, take a halftime break and  go shoot some hoops, toss a football or play in the snow with your kids.

Happy Holidays!

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